PALACE COUP IN THE BASEBALL UNION: MOFFETT OUT, MILLER IN
In a stunning move, the Major League Players Association last week fired Executive Director Ken Moffett and temporarily replaced him with his predecessor, Marvin Miller. No single event triggered the dismissal, but players cited an erosion of confidence in Moffett's toughness, persistence and leadership. As Montreal Pitcher Steve Rogers, the National League pension representative, said to SI's Jim Kaplan, "The process of educating the members hadn't been followed as diligently as it should have been. There was a lack of direction."
But the real cause may have been the clash of styles and philosophies between Moffett and Miller. From the time he assumed office in 1966 until his retirement last January, Miller was a quintessential hard-liner. Baseball management was anything but compassionate, and negotiations became pitched battles. When Moffett, the former director of the federal mediation service, replaced Miller's firmness with conciliatory overtures, the players saw red. So, apparently, did Miller, who was still involved with the MLPA as a consultant and who presumably became disenchanted with the way Moffett was running things. The players wondered if Moffett had the stomach to fight for the retention of their free-agent and arbitration rights and the historical formula for funding the pension plan from TV revenues—all of which could be issues in contract negotiations next year. "What is a union leader, an advocate or a mediator?" asked one association member. Suddenly, the mediator was out, the advocate back in.
In recalling Miller, the players no doubt assumed that management will be as obdurate as ever. However, Moffett says that at his urging the owners appointed a more congenial man (it turned out to be American League President Lee MacPhail) as their chief negotiator to replace the often difficult Ray Grebey. Moffett felt he could work with—not against—MacPhail and members of baseball's new guard, particularly Oakland President Roy Eisenhardt.
December 5, 1983
Moffett and Miller have had differing approaches to the issues of drug and alcohol abuse by players. Image-conscious baseball officials have reacted to such malefactions by enacting suspensions and fines—and the union has filed grievances. Under Moffett, a joint committee of players and owners had been formed to devise a system to deal with the problem. This cooperative approach is said to have disturbed General Counsel Donald Fehr (an old Miller associate who is expected to be named acting executive director of the association next month) and Special Assistant Mark Belanger, although it was the players' executive board that fired Moffett. Moffett blames Miller for his ouster.
"Drugs aren't a win-lose type of situation," argues Moffett. "There are kids who are messed up and need help, and there are ways to do this short of confrontation. You can't go to the mat on every issue. My sense was that management was making an effort to be conciliatory. I felt this was the way to go, instead of to the brink. I think things will now go back to being confrontational. That's wrong, especially in this day and age when there are so many Greyhound situations, so many air-traffic-controller situations, so many National Football League situations. I think it's about time people came to their senses."
The Miami Dolphins' defense, nicknamed the Killer Bees (for Doug Betters, Bob Baumhauer, Bob Brudzinski, Kim Bokamper, Charles Bowser, Lyle Blackwood and Glenn Blackwood), has come up with a new name for its sacks: B's Whacks.
ALUMNI ROLL CALL
The 1963 Pitt football team, which had a 9-1 record, was honored during the Panthers' homecoming game this year. According to a Pitt press release, the '63 Panthers have been as successful in life as they were on the gridiron, producing 15 dentists, three physicians, a chiropractor, six educators, five engineers, three lawyers, four executives, a banker, two NFL assistant coaches, a college coach, two stockbrokers—and a bookmaker. About that last fellow, the press release conceded, "Well, Pitt isn't perfect."
DON'T DO DAT TO DIT
When the Boston Bruins acquired veteran defenseman Guy Lapointe this season, they acceded to his request and gave him No. 5, the same number he'd worn earlier with the Montreal Canadiens and the St. Louis Blues. Simple enough. However, No. 5 was a sacred Bruin number, one that belonged to the late Dit Clapper, a great Boston player of decades past, and it had long since been retired, along with other numbers, such as Eddie Shore's No. 2 and Bobby Orr's No. 4. Dit's daughter, Mrs. Marilyn Clapper Armstrong, protested. In fact, she came all the way from her home in Waterloo, Ontario to Boston to protest—and couldn't get in to see the Bruins' brass. But she did see Mrs. Weston Adams Sr., widow of the longtime Bruins president, and talked to members of the press, who look up her campaign. Orr even asked that his No. 4 be reassigned to Lapointe instead of Clapper's No. 5.
The Bruins gave in last week, assigning Lapointe No. 27 and putting No. 5 back in mothballs.
SPARSE AND HARRY
Two pillars of American angling, Sparse Grey Hackle, 90, and Harry Darbee, 77, died within a few days of each other last month. Senior Writer Robert H. Boyle writes of them with affection:
A Wall Street publicist and writer whose real name was Alfred W. Miller, Sparse Grey Hackle adopted his nom de p√™che in 1931 when he wrote about the pollution of the Beaverkill, the fabled Catskill trout stream he and Harry often fished. Sparse was portly and courtly, a bespectacled gentleman of the old school who would appear on a stream in baggy waders, rod in hand, pipe in mouth, checkered tweed hat on head and a beneficent smile wreathing his rubicund face. After a reporter wrote that Sparse looked like "God the Father savoring the joys of an afternoon on the water," he replied, "I've had people say, 'J——C——, is that you?' but this is the first time I was ever elevated to five-star rank." Sparse often referred disparagingly to his own writings. "Thanks for your forbearance in not sinking the spurs into this jaded hack," he once wrote to a reviewer—but critics bestowed the highest praise on his 1971 book Fishless Days, Angling Nights. The review that pleased Sparse the most was that done as a high school term paper by his grandson. Steven A. Toulotte, who wrote, "I know the author well, he is a good friend of mine." Sparse said, "I liked that. Kids can't select their grandparents, but they sure can choose their friends."
Harry Darbee was a flytier (as was his late wife, Elsie) in direct line of apostolic succession from the sainted Theodore Gordon, the Catskill recluse who introduced dry flies to the United States in the 1890s. Harry had a snub nose, high forehead and white pompadour that gave him the look of a pre-Revolutionary Russian playwright. As a boy he was a neighbor of John Burroughs, and he accompanied the elderly writer and naturalist in search of birds' nests. Harry derived from Burroughs his approach to nature, which he pungently summed up as "Leave it the hell alone." He engaged spiritedly in numerous conservation battles. Told that New York City and state politicians had reached a "gentleman's agreement" on diversion of the flow from a trout stream, Harry said. "But how could that be? There were no gentlemen present." Harry was the creator of such legendary flies as the Rat-faced McDougall, which got its unusual name from a young girl who thought the fly had "personality," and he was such a perfectionist when it came to his choice of tying materials that he raised his own chickens for their feathers, or "hackle" in flytying argot. As his old friend Sparse Grey Hackle used to say. It's a good thing Harry doesn't run a restaurant. If you asked for a slice of bread, he'd go out and plant the wheat."
CANADIAN WEATHER REPORT
The Montreal Expos already have the talented Tim Raines in leftfield, and next spring they'll be taking a look at another promising outfielder, a rookie named Razor Shines. Michael Farber, a Montreal Gazette columnist, is rooting hard for the youngster because, says Farber, if he makes it "leftfield will be covered, come Raines or come Shines."
On the other hand, if the Expos drop Razor from the team's big league roster, that, for Farber, will be the most unkindest cut of all.
THEY SAID IT
•Moses Malone, Philadelphia 76ers center, on the presence in the NBA of the Houston Rockets' towering 7'4" rookie center, Ralph Sampson: "My advice to Ralph is to gain weight, like I did. I started in the NBA at 215 and now I'm 260. That ought to take Ralph five years, and by then I'll be out of the league."
•Willie Alexander, retired Houston Oilers cornerback, asked at the age of 34 if he was planning a comeback a la Jim Brown: "Not me. I haven't been gone long enough to forget what the pain feels like."